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I am taking Beginner Muay Thai classes for a couple of months now quite regularly. A few rounds of light sparring (no elbows, no knees & kicks to the head, focus on technique instead of power) against several other trainees in succession is part of most training sessions. For each session I usually focus on one specific technique/detail that I want to work on, e.g. dodging blows, delivering lots of lowkicks, executing combos containing a level change...

Recently, a situation occured that made me reconsider my attitude. The goal I pursued that day was to safely enter clinch and dominate the opponent. Amongst others I was paired against a girl that is at least as long a member of that gym as I am and is probably 20-25 kg lighter than me. I closed distance and entered the clinch easily and tripped her to the ground effortlessly. I immediately apologized and she didn't seem to mind and continued sparring with me. I felt bad anyways because that move didn't help either of us getting better at MT and was basically just a display of dominance on my side.

Anyways, I'm not quite sure anymore about how to deal with sparring partners that I outclass either physically or technically. On one hand I think you can learn a lot if your opponent gives you a rough time and provides a challenge. Plus, I don't want to give people the feeling that I don't take them seriously. On the other hand, I'd like to make people feel welcome instead of intimidating them and don't force them into situations they basically can't win.

I don't think the answer is 'Do not spar with people 25 kg lighter/heavier than you'. I once got roughed up pretty hard by a skinny guy who was a foot smaller than me and I enjoy facing taller and heavier guys than me because it forces me to deal with my disadvantages and keeps me on my toes. Both are valuable lessons in my book.

So my question is: is there any general advice on how to spar against opponents that you clearly outclass one way or another without looking like a complete douchebag, so both combattants are able to learn something valuable from the encounter?

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Competition, in a club setting, should be all about learning: for yourself and them. Thus,

Help them!

Against a weaker opponent, your goal should be to make them better. So, allow them to practice on you their techniques. Let them manage distance, ring craft, and techniques. If you see weakness there, point it out (either with a well timed riposte or verbally) and let them try again and again and again.

It is all about them getting better and you will quickly have to up your game because they will get better fast.

Get out of your comfort zone.

You might know some techniques well, others not so much. Now is the time to practice those. You will be slower, clumsier, and easier to parry which will help your opponent practice. You will gain confidence and experience using those techniques you are weaker with thus gaining more "weapons" in your arsenal.

Themes

There is nothing wrong in asking someone about doing one particular thing within a sparing session. In your case, "safely enter clinch and dominate the opponent". So, ask your partner is she mind just training that. Offer her advise how to make it awkward for you: maybe kicks or ring craft or … Something will make it really hard for you. This way, you are both learning something. Then, switch roles and ask what she wants to practice and focus on that.


This is based not on Muay Thai but Aikido, although I strongly suspect that is similar enough to be a helpful answer.

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    Plus, understanding mistakes and weaknesses, how to trigger them, and in case how to overcome them needs reflection of the material, movements, situations, etc. that usually makes you a better fighter yourself, as you will spot and understand things that help you getting better, even if only marginally compared to the partner/opponent. – Philip Klöcking Jun 2 '17 at 0:15
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    While discussing such stuff isn't really an option during the session due to lack of time (...and breath), I have tried out your suggestions: focussing on techniques I'm still uncomfortable with while actively pointing out when an opponent keeps exhibiting particular weaknesses so far has yielded me already a few fun and rewarding rounds of sparring. Thanks! – UnbescholtenerBuerger Jun 5 '17 at 12:07
  • @UnbescholtenerBuerger I am glad to hear that my advise helped. Do try to talk after or before the class starts: you do not need to spend ages on it, just a "think about what you want to practice with me and tell me before we start" should do it. – Sardathrion - Reinstate Monica Jun 5 '17 at 12:13
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Newbies are an extreme danger to themselves and others. As such, I do not recommend holding back. Sweep the leg and go for throats rips.

On a more serious note, if you're training in a dojo that "goes hard" all the time. That's a red flag. It's better to practice the same movement slowly 1000 times. In this manner it becomes muscle memory- correct muscle memory.

Respect the person who's training with you. Correct each other and ask questions. Ask the instructor for insight when something doesn't make sense. If you are unable to do these things, find a new place to learn.

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    I would strongly suggest you removed the first paragraph as it is neither funny nor useful. The rest is a good answer but that paragraph stops me from upvoting it. – Sardathrion - Reinstate Monica Jul 3 '17 at 6:32

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